According to the Mayo Clinic, food sensitivities or food intolerances are more common than food allergies.
It can be confusing to know whether a person has a true food allergy or a food sensitivity because both reactions have similar symptoms.
A food allergy affects many organs in the body
One way doctors know that a patient has a food allergy instead of a food intolerance or food sensitivity is that a food allergy is an immune system reaction. It affects many different organs of the body. A person may develop a skin rash or hives, have trouble breathing, and may have swelling in the face and on the lips. A food sensitivity, on the other hand, usually affects only the digestive system.
Food sensitivities are often limited to the digestive system
A food intolerance usually shows up in the body as digestive disturbances. For example, a person who has a sensitivity to peanuts may experience diarrhea or stomach cramps. The digestive symptoms usually develop gradually. It is often possible to tolerate small amounts of the food without reacting to it.
Food allergies are usually more serious reactions
Someone with a true peanut allergy may have a more severe reaction such as hives or asthma. Eating even a tiny amount of the food can cause a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. This condition requires emergency medical treatment, or death could occur.
Those with food allergies can also have digestive problems
Vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, and nausea may develop if you eat a very small amount of the food to which you are allergic. A tingling feeling in the mouth may develop, along with hives and swelling of the lips, face, tongue, and throat. There are no cures for food allergies, so the only way to avoid these reactions is to avoid the food.
Allergy tests can show whether you are allergic to certain foods
When you have an allergy skin test, you will develop a hive where a small amount of food was placed under the skin. Many allergists perform a blood test if they suspect a food allergy to one of the foods that can cause serious reactions such as peanuts. The blood allergy test will be positive if the person's blood contains antibody-like structures that develop if a person is allergic to a certain food.
Food allergies should be taken seriously
If you are allergic to a food like peanuts and have had peanut allergy symptoms, it is important not to ignore the symptoms even if they were mild. This is due to the fact that the next time you come into contact with a peanut product, your reaction could be a very serious one.
Food sensitivities can often be treated, or you can eat substitute foods
There are some medications that aid in the digestion of certain foods, or they may stop your reaction to foods to which you are sensitive. It is important to see your doctor to find out whether you have a food sensitivity or food allergy to a particular food.